Many of Seattle's better restaurants serve only dinner and are closed Sunday; quite a few are closed Monday. (Monday is also typically the head chef’s day off, so might not be the best day for a onetime visit.) Many restaurants that serve lunch during the week do not do so on weekends, though they may offer brunch, which is increasingly popular in Seattle. Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed are open daily for lunch and dinner. Seattle restaurants generally serve food until 10 or 11 pm, Sunday through Thursday—in a new era for a city that once shut down early, there’s now a choice of excellent food as late as 2 am on Friday and Saturday, particularly on nightlife-heavy Capitol Hill. Great breakfast menus are easier to come by on weekends than midweek; consequently, if you know where to go you can get terrific pastries and breads at a bakery—and, of course, you'll find amazing coffee everywhere.
Seattleites dine out often, so reservations are always a good idea. Restaurant reviews note only where they are required or not accepted. Reservations can sometimes be made a day in advance, but you'll have better luck if you make them a week or two ahead–-or more at the most popular restaurants. If you've just arrived in town and heard about a popular restaurant, it doesn't hurt to call—you may be able to get a reservation for midweek when even hot restaurants don't always reach capacity, and some of the ultrapopular spots save a few tables for walk-ins.
Smoking in restaurants and bars is prohibited in Washington State.
Most Seattleites tip around 18%. You should leave 20% if the service was outstanding, or the server or kitchen fulfilled special requests. As Seattle's minimum wage rises, some restaurants have implemented a service fee instead of expecting a traditional tip, while a 18%–20% gratuity will automatically be added to bills for larger parties—be sure to check your receipt before adding a tip, or ask your server.
What it costs
If you're watching your budget, be sure to ask the price of daily specials recited by the waiter. The charge for specials at some restaurants can be noticeably out of line with the other prices on the menu. And beware of the $10 bottle of water; ask for tap water instead.
Many restaurants offer great lunch deals with special menus at lower prices designed to give customers a true taste of the place. Early-evening and late-night happy hours, complete with cheap drinks and satisfying food offerings, are a long-standing and beloved local tradition.
Credit cards are widely accepted, and even the smallest places and food trucks will take them.
What to Wear
Seattle dining is very informal. It's almost a little too informal—though the city's lack of pretension is one of its charms, residents are trying harder on the fashion front, and it shows. Almost no restaurants require jackets and ties; however, business casual is usually a safe way to go if you're off to a spendy or trendy restaurant. We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie.
Wine, Beer, and Spirits
The liquor laws in the state of Washington were once stringent, but a voter-approved privatization initiative in 2011 loosened them up. Spirits, once sold only in state-run liquor stores, are now widely available in supermarkets and other privately run stores that are (with a few exceptions) larger than 10,000 square feet. Generally, the variety of wines and specialty beers sold in most grocery stores is quite astounding, with many mirroring the restaurant world’s commitment to locally produced ingredients. Additionally, thanks to changes in distillery laws, Washington is also seeing a resurgence in craft distilleries, which are brewing high-quality gin, vodka, whiskey, and other spirits.
Although it's unusual to see children in the dining rooms of Seattle's most elite restaurants, dining with youngsters in the city does not have to mean culinary exile. Many of the restaurants are excellent choices for families.